War Song by Jane Urquhart

urquhart war  

urquhart war
Knitting Instructions for Dunkirk Service Socks. Photo courtesy The Art of Knitting

Grandmother has the devil
in her
big as a woodchuck

rationing has been
imposed
so she

rushes to
the dominion store
to buy up all the sugar

before the hoarders
get it

and there will be sweet tea
on afternoons
set aside for the knitting
of regulation dunkirk socks

knit one pearl
two
sweet tea and gasoline
for each of three hearses

business continues as usual

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡good teeth
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡blue suspenders
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡regulation dunkirk socks
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ fingers on left hand
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡missing

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

Undertaker’s Bride by Jane Urquhart

urquhart undertaker

urquhart undertaker
The Morse home and funeral parlour. Photo Morse & Son Funeral Home

Grandmother
was an undertaker’s bride

it couldn’t be helped

the profession ran in
her husband’s family

she was twenty-one
at the turn of the present century
her name was
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡adeline
just like the song

grandmother kept an intricate
account of
death by water

that was her job

sometimes she described
more than sixty floaters a summer
all of them slipped

over the falls
one way or another

she wrote
their remaining physical
characteristics
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡and their
tiny possessions
in a small brown book

it looks as if it couldn’t be
helped

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡it looks as if
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ ‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡somebody
had to write it

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

“She’s Coming!” by Joan Murray

Murray

murray
Annie Edson Taylor Before Her Trip Over the Horseshoe Falls. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

A crowd flowed onto the Suspension Bridge.
Another onto Prospect Point.
A third onto the Three Sisters Islands
—all along the railings in the gorge.
Across the river, a thousand more poured down to Table Rock.
And up the shore, a hundred others—
men, women and children—
stood by the dock at Truesdale’s cottage, waiting to see me off.
There were no clouds that morning,
and so much light it seemed ten suns were whirling
as I stepped into the skiff—in a tossing sea of handkerchiefs—
and waved to them (while Russell blew a kiss)
amidst the general hurrah.

Then we set out—with Truesdale straining the tiller
against the single, headstrong sail—
and Billy Holleran, a strong, strapping boy, manning the furious oars.
The barrel rode upright behind us, bucking to run its course
—and was jerked back to correction by the stern instruction of our rope.
A quarter way out, we stopped on an island where I changed my clothes:
no hat or dress now, but a blouse left open at the throat,
and a skirt hemmed just below the knee.
I made them turn away while I backed in through the rim—
then they fastened down the lid,
rolled me to the shore,
turned me upright—
pushed me in.

Four boats now. And behind the first,
the towed barrel, weighed down with me—
yet still intractable.
And in the last, a cameraman recording every stroke
as they rowed a mile across to the Point of No Return—
where the river starts to churn,
and a sailor knows he’d better bend his back
—or else go over.
There they knocked. And cut the rope.
They must have pulled hard then to turn themselves south,
but I went north—(a half mile more before I’d reach the brink).
I careened and spun. Once it tossed me clear up out of the water.
I went unbidden—and unwelcome—where it rushed me.

I wished I could have watched from some place overhead
and heard the voices racing down the shore—
passing on the message—
dock to island, island to rock, rock to bridge:
“She’s coming!”
I would have liked to see them turn their heads—
wave after wave, as each new group heard the murmur
and craned their necks to catch a glimpse.
I’d have liked to see the trolley racing down the shore,
and the incline railway rushing down the gorge
—so the ones who’d waved from Truesdale’s dock
could be standing on the rocks below the Falls,
looking up—to see if anything would come.

from Queen of the Mist,
a novel in verse about the first person to go over Niagara in a barrel

Visit Joan Murray’s website

See Queen of the Mist on the Beacon Press website

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The Hero of Bridgewater by Charles L.S. Jones

hero bridgewater General Winfield Scott at the Time of the War of 1812
General Winfield Scott at the Time of the War of 1812

Seize, O seize the sounding Lyre,
With its quivering string!
Strike the chords, in ecstasy,
Whilst loud the valleys ring!
Sing the Chief, who, gloriously,
From England’s veteran band,
Pluck’d the wreaths of Victory,
To grace his native land!

Where Bridgewater’s war-fam’d stream
Saw the foemen reel,
Thrice repuls’d, with burnish’d gleam
Of bayonet, knife, and steel;
And its crimson’d waters run
Red with gurgling flow,
As Albion’s gathering hosts his arm,
His mighty arm, laid low.

Strike the sounding string of fame,
O Lyre! Beat loud, ye drums!
Ye clarion blasts exalt his name!
Behold the hero comes!
I see Columbia, joyously,
Her palmy circlet throw
Around his high victorious brow
Who laid her foemen low!

Take him Fame! For thine he is!
On silvery columns, rear
The name of Scott, whence envious Time
Shall ne’er its honors tear!
And thou, O, Albion, quake with dread!
Ye veterans shrink, the while,
Whene’er his glorious name shall sound
To shake your sea girt isle!

Source: Charles L. S. Jones,  American Lyrics; Comprising The Discovery, a Poem; Sapphic, Pindaric and Common Odes; Songs and Tales of American and Patriotic Subjects, and also Imitations From the Greek, Latin, French, and Spanish. Mobile: Pollard & Dade, 1834

Click to see more poems about the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and other Poems of the War of 1812 in Niagara

Dedication of the Bells by Rev. Martin R. Jenkinson

Dedication bells
View of the Bells in the Carillon Tower of the Rainbow Bridge by George Bailey. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library Digital Collections

It stands amid floral splendour,
Its feet firmly set on the sod,
Its tower upreaching to Heaven,
Like a finger, pointing to God.

Though it stands on Canada’s soil,
It looks to America’s shore,
And the common music to both,
Is the sound of the river’s roar.

And out from that beautiful shrine,
There will come melodious knells;
The cause of this musical flood?
The tower is a Chapel of Bells.

They’re the fruit of a people’s pride.
A means of showing their praise;
In honour of two of earth’s great,
Who led them through dark, dreary days.

Their words gave balm to the weary;
Then they rallied their nations’ power.
To battle the hosts of darkness.
And give freedom one shining hour.

Their words defied the defiant,
And imparted strength to the brave,
And like some heavenly trumpet,
Aroused man’s shy hopes from the grave.

Held in high respect by earth’s great,
And loved by the humble as well,
We will be hearing their voices, when
We list to the song of the bell.

Your songs are the art of blending,
By the touch of a master’s choice.
May all who hear, catch the meaning,
Who stand within sound of your voice.

So cast on the air your message,
May if come again and again.
In notes of comfort and uplift,
Like a benediction to men.

Source:  Bridges – Rainbow – Carillon Vertical File. Niagara Falls, Ont. : Niagara Falls Public Library.

Read on the occasion of the dedication of the carillon bells, June 16, 1947.